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FA Cup replays - Noise
at 17:31 27 Jan 2020

I was wondering where many of you stand regarding FA Cup replays? There has been quite alot of noise about it in the last few days, mostly, it has to be said, from the external managers that manage predominantly PL clubs. As big a Ralph fan as I am, I was disappointed to see him jump on the bandwagon and complain about FA Cup replays -(having heard Guardiola, Klopp, Mourinho all whingeing about it).

I will admit, I am probably stuck in a bygone era of the 70's, 80's and 90's when the FA cup and replays were all part of our season and in some cases, you would have several replays before there was an outcome - I could be wrong, but I am sure there was one season where Arsenal/Sheff Wed had 3 replays to decide an outcome.

I am also not getting this fixture congestion complaint. As long as I can remember, there were mid-week games as well as weekend games. Is the congestion really not about the TV demands which require them to play on any day now which then causes a knock on effect to the next fixture, whereas in the past, you knew a game was a Saturday and then a Tuesday/Wednesday? - you still had the league cup, FA Cup and any European games etc. Pitches were not as good as they are now, in fact, by this time of the year, they were often quagmires.

I am just getting a bit sick and tired of particularly the external managers moaning about our Christmas fixtures, our cup competitions, our mid-week games, our replays etc. If you take a job, you know what you are taking. If you don't like it, don't take the job or leave. It is like me employing a plumber and they say they don't want to unblock toilets! Accept our footballing culture, embrace it and enjoy it or go elsewhere. I appreciate that may seem harsh, but the FA Cup is so diluted now, that if you take away replays, then that is another step towards nullifying the point of the competition - especially for the clubs from the other leagues. At this rate we risk the only competition being for the elite few that can compete for the Premier League trophy and a few European one, leaving the rest through the leagues to chase promotion, avoid relegation or mid-table obscurity. Take away the cup competitions and there is nothing else for them (and a possible good pay day for some - e.g Shrewsbury).
Stephens assist
at 08:37 22 Jan 2020

JWP by all accounts was immense last night and he has been on top of his game since the Arsenal match away really. I did not see the game at all last night, but having seen the goals (both, which were excellently executed - and I will admit, I have been critical of Redmond's finishing and conversion rate) what did strike (unintended pun) was the exquisite pass by Stephens which was both visionary and weighted to perfection for Redmond. Sometimes, you are not sure what you are going to get with Stephens but he is quite deft at placing a forward pass.
Disappointing but not the end of the world.
at 23:07 18 Jan 2020

Today showed what we can do and how good we can be when we are focused and concentrate and get stuck in. On the whole our first half performance was satisfying but I did have that strange feeling that we would need a third goal. Once Wolves scored, I felt we were under threat and just knew in my heart of hearts that they would equalise and the momentum was with them. But before they got their second (which was a penalty in my view) we had chances to make it 3-1 and had we done that, I think we would have gone on and won. Redmond does alot of good work, but his conversion, final ball and finishing really does need to improve.

As good as we have been recently (and pretty solid), the 2nd half exposed our frailties again and that is a lesson to all, as I feared, a few good results does not suddenly mean everything is alright and it concerns me that the noises in the last week seem to suggest that we don't need to look any further. We were very loose at times in midfield and at the back in the 2nd half.

It will be important to get something at Palace, even if it is just a point as the next league game after that is of course, Liverpool away. But, Palace are a difficult side to break down, as even Man City discovered today.

Losing a 2 goal lead and conceding 3 in a 45 minute spell is never good, but as long as we use it to rid any potential complacency then it won't be a disaster. I have feared that as much as the Leicester result at home in October seemed to cajole the manager and team into action I have feared that there has been too much noise since our result away to Leicester leading to people thinking that everything is alright. I prefer us to go quietly about our business and only start shouting when we have achieved our goals.

Not the end of the world today, but still lots of work to do and a message to Ralph and the board - if you know there is someone out there that will help the squad, then don't try and risk getting across the line.

The Unsung Jewels in our team
at 22:56 11 Jan 2020

Quite rightly alot of emphasis is placed on the impact of Ings, but possibly what is more satisfying are the unsung jewels in our team that not so long ago were so devoid of confidence and belief and understandably were being criticised heavily. But, they have stuck with it, worked hard and have not given up. These are:-

Ward-Prowse - endless hard work. He may not be the perfect or greatest midfielder in the world and at one point this season he looked scared to be out on the pitch but he never gives up and plays his heart and soul for the club;
Armstrong - so often in the shadow but bided his time and come in and made such a difference;
Stephens and Bednarek - not so long ago, could not put a foot right and were facing endless criticism. Not saying they are the best in their trade but what they lack in skill they have made up for in pride, endeavour and sheer hard work.

Also, Che Adams - he is making a difference, so please don't loan him out. Playing in this team and in this league will eventually show it's rewards.

Hojberg has struggled this season but he has shown determination to keep going. He knows it is not his best season. I do think Redmond could be better. His final ball and conversion rate remains poor but, he will come out of it.
A very tight PL this year
at 12:43 2 Jan 2020

Putting aside the very top of the league and what now looks like a cast iron outcome for Liverpool, from 6th downwards it is very tight. In respect of ourselves, we are 5 points from 6th and 7th position and 5 points from Bournemouth in 18th. Only 10pts separate 6th to 18th. Obviously goal difference makes some difference.

Quite a few clubs have gone for the new manager bounce recently which may or may not work. I sense West Ham may pull away.

Everyone seems to be capable of picking up points and having good little runs but then equally then go on a bad run. Newcastle, not many weeks ago looked quite good but recent results have now made them look vulnerable again. Perhaps something we need to be mindful, especially with some of our fans seeming to think that we are as good as safe. What we have given ourselves some breathing space but 2 defeats and we could be sucked back in. We are relying heavily on Ings finding the net.

I still think we need a couple of players for January but whether what we need and looking for are out there and at a reasonable price is a moot point. One player I like the look of is Jaden Bowen at Hull City. Nigel Adkins recommended him to us last summer and he is still going strong this year. Quite a few clubs are now interested in him. May be not a primary target for us as he is a forward/midfielder and good performances in the championship are not a given for making it at this level but equally, I cannot see us spending on so called experienced established top players. A replacement for Cedric is obviously a target and a CB as I am not sure I want to rely on Vestergaard on filling any gaps.
Cannot ask for better than that!
at 16:56 26 Dec 2019

Absolutely sublime performance all round today. Cannot recall the last time I have said this, but a disciplined, mature team performance today throughout the team. Also haven't always been able to say it this season, but Ralph got it completely spot on today, We made it difficult and frustrated the opposition and then hurt them.
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